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Sil Austin

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Sil Austin (17 September 1929 - 1 September 2001) was a ist. He had his biggest successes in an overtly commercial rather than vein, but he regarded great saxophonists like Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and Sonny Stitt as his major influences.

He was a showman on stage, and had a big, ripe, -inflected tenor sound which was ideally adapted to hard-driving , but was also highly persuasive on .

He was born Sylvester Austin in Dunnellon, Florida, and taught himself to play as a 12 year old. He won the Ted Mack Amateur Hour in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1945, playing “Danny Boy”. His performance brought him a recording contract with Mercury Records, and he moved to New York, where he studied for a time at the Juilliard School of Music.

He played with Roy Eldridge briefly, and with Tiny Bradshawin 1952-54, before setting up his own successful touring group. He recorded over 30 albums for Mercury, and had a number of Top 40 hits with pop tunes like “Danny Boy” (his signature tune), “Slow Walk” and “My Mother’s Eyes”.

He died of prostate cancer in 2001, and is survived by his wife of 52 years, the Rev. Vernice Austin, two daughters, nine grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.

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